Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD

As mentioned, evidences from animal studies show effects of acupuncture on anxiety (some of them specific to alcohol abstinence coupled anxiety). A decreased level of neuropeptide Y (NPY) protein in the amygdala is associated with both ethanol withdrawal and anxiety. Acupuncture has been shown to reverse this depletion of NPY and thereby attenuate anxiety (Z. Zhao et al., 2014). Other studies found that acupuncture may attenuate anxiety-related behaviours during ethanol withdrawal through the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system in the neuro-endocrine system axis (Z. Zhao et al., 2014; Z. L. Zhao et al., 2011).

Recent reviews of human studies (Pilkington, Krikwood, Ramper, Cummings, & Richardson, 2014; van der Watt, Laugharne, & Janca, 2008) and an overview of complementary and alternative medicine therapies (Williams, Gierisch, McDuffie, Strauss, & Nagi, 2011) have reiterated that while very few high quality RCTs have investigated acupuncture in the treatment of anxiety and/or depression, the insufficient evidence does not diminish the popularity of acupuncture treatment for these conditions.

Interesting findings on the efficacy and acceptability of acupuncture in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have suggested that acupuncture might be useful in reducing symptoms of PTSD (H. Zhang et al., 2010; Y. Zhang, Feng, Xie, Xu, & Chen, 2011) and PTSD-associated depression and anxiety (Hollifield, Sinclair-Lian, Warner, & Hammerschlag, 2007). The treatment effects of acupuncture for PTSD were similar to those of cognitive behavioural therapy, and preliminary evidence suggests that a combination of acupoint stimulation and brief exposure to psychological treatment may target both the symptoms of PTSD and underlying neurological patterns with unusual speed, power, and lasting effect while minimizing the likelihood of re-traumatization (Feinstein, 2010).